Weather, Part 5

Marine Weather Center

In Weather, Part 4 I talked about how I watched weather while cruising in the Bahamas. In this post I discuss one of the weather resources, the Marine Weather Center (better known as Chris Parker) broadcast, in more detail.

Chris Parker Services

I knew about Chris Parker when we started planning our Bahamas trip. I haven’t talked about his services because I hadn’t used them before this trip. Chris Parker provides a number of subscription and free services. You can get general weather advice or weather advice for your specific location or destination. You can receive this information in several formats, including SSB (single side band radio), satellite phone, fax and email. In addition he broadcasts  a weather synopsis for Bahamas, Caribbean and US East coast on SSB every Monday through Saturday.

We didn’t subscribe to any services for the last trip, but we did try to listen in on his Bahamas weather synopsis. Sometimes we couldn’t catch everything he said so next Bahamas trip we will subscribe to his daily email service.

The SSB Bahamas synopsis starts at about 6:40 am on 4.045 MHz USB and 8.137 MHz USB. We would usually tune in before then and adjust the SSB to get the best reception. We would switch between 4.045 and 8.137  and adjust settings to get the best audio reception. It was not always possible to hear the entire synopsis and sometimes we would have to change frequencies in the middle of the broadcast to hear it.

Chris Parker’s Bahamas Synopsis

When we tune in he is taking calls from subscribing vessels. He tries to prioritize calls by propagation. In other words, he will delay his synopsis if there are vessels calling in who will soon lose contact. He always starts his synopsis asking if there is any emergency traffic. Next he cover recent observations pertinent to the area. Then he covers a five-day synopsis and outlook past five days. Then he covers precipitation, winds and seas for northern, central and south Bahamas. Finally he discusses gulf stream crossings, both east and west.

We would prepare for his broadcast by writing down the  National Weather Service Offshore Forecast for the Bahamas (more on that in a future post). Then we would take notes on differences while he was talking. At the end we would compare notes and try to make sure we didn’t miss anything important. The information on squalls was what we found most useful. We have not found an easy way to get this information any other way.

Tropical Storm Ana

We had our share of squalls while in the Bahamas. A trough of low pressure started forming in the Bahamas the first week of May. This later formed tropical storm Ana, the earliest tropical cyclone on record to make landfall in the US. It was not fun being there with a tropical storm forming overhead. (See Waiting for Weather and Rain, Rain Go Away.) But from a scientific point of view it was quite fascinating. We would not have known about this except for Chris Parker.

What’s Next

We relied on Chris Parker’s synopsis more than we thought we would. We will definitely subscribe to his email service for the next Bahamas trip. In the next post on I will discuss weather faxes.

Weather, Part 4

Weather Resources While Cruising

In Weather, Part 1 I talk about why I became interested in weather and about the book, Modern Marine Weather: From Time Honored Maritime Traditions to the Latest Technology. In Weather, Part 2 I talk about some of the weather resources I use and in Weather, Part 3 I talk about how I use these resources to watch marine weather. In this post I  talk about how I actually monitored weather during our Bahamas cruise.

Single Side Band Radio

We left Marathon, FL on March 31, 2015, headed to the Bahamas and returned on May 12. Most of that time our only communication was through our single side band radio (SSB). We knew this ahead of time and planned for it. The SSB allowed us to keep in touch with family and friends, but more importantly keep track of weather.

Through the SSB we were able to receive weather faxes, weather forecasts, GRIB files and voice broadcasts. In addition to these we sometimes heard local forecasts from marinas or other cruisers via our VHF radio or in person.

Daily Weather Routine

While in the Bahamas we usually got up at 6:00 am. After coffee we looked at the wind speed, direction, barometer and of course the sky. Then at 6:30 we tuned the SSB to hear Chris Parker’s Bahamas weather synopsis. After that, depending on our location we would listen in to various VHF radio  nets on weather. When we were in Warderick Wells the local cruisers would hold a weather net on VHF 68 at 8:00 am. At 8:30 we would join a weather net on VHF 12 from Staniel Cay. At some point during the day we would try to receive NOAA weather faxes and send and receive emails through SailMail. These emails included a GRIB file that we had subscribed to from SailDocs.

I’ll elaborate on each of these resources in future posts.

Website Update

I updated the website a few days ago. I didn’t make any big changes but I fixed a bunch of little problems. I added some new content as well.

Tools For Cruisers Calculators

I’ve been working on some calculators for weather and sailing. These were available on the website before the update, but I was debugging and tweaking them. I think they are finally ready for prime time. Links to these calculators are found by going to the main page www.questeria.info, clicking on the Tools For Cruisers button and then clicking on the Utilities button.

The Apparent Wind Speed Calculator calculates apparent wind speed and direction when true wind speed and direction and boat speed and heading are known. The True Wind Speed Calculator calculates true wind speed and direction when apparent wind speed and direction and boat speed and heading are known.  The Wind Speed Calculator will estimate true wind speed from a weather fax. I will discuss these calculator in detail at later time.

Apps, Books and Websites

I had some discussion of books before, but it was pretty out of date. I’ve started to update it with some more recent books that I’ve used. Some of the new additions are:

I also added sections for apps and websites. I have more apps, books and websites to add, but I wanted to some updates out there.

What I did on my summer vacation

The summer has come and gone and I haven’t touched the blog. After our Bahamas trip it took us a while to get used to being in our marina again. We made boat repairs, went to some of our favorite restaurants and visited the sandbar. On Memorial Day weekend we held our first annual Bonefish Marina Paddle Board Race. We had one entry in the kayak division, one entry in the dinghy division and several entries in the paddle board division. That was lots of fun.

We started to get back to normal and then Fran’s brother, James came down to visit. We had a great time fishing, even if we didn’t catch anything. One day we went to Key West to visit Jim, his army buddy who he hadn’t seen in years. Jim has his own micro brewery in Key West called Bone Island Brewery. We sampled some of his beers, went to lunch and toured the Mel Fisher museum.

Bone Island Brewery
Bone Island Brewery

We had more visitors in June. Alicia, Jackson and Oliver came down for a week. We went fishing, to the sandbar, to the beach, to Aquarium Encounters and to some of our favorite restaurants.

Jackson, Alicia & Oliver
Jackson, Alicia & Oliver

On July 4th we had a great cook out with ribs, brisket and other things on the smoker. We cooked breakfast (red, white and blue pancakes and four pounds of bacon), lunch, snacks and dinner. We had tons of leftovers.

July 4th Cook Out
July 4th Cook Out

Following that I took the van and left Fran in Marathon. I drove to Chicago for the 107th Chicago to Mackinac Island race. Robert flew up there and we met up with the crew of Twisted. This was the second time I crewed for this race. We did better this year, We didn’t come in first, but we didn’t come in last. We had a great crew and I learned a lot. We started the race on Saturday and got to Mackinac Island on Monday. Tuesday was a day of celebration.

Before Race
Before Race
After Race
After Race

On Wednesday Robert and I rented a car and drove to Chicago. I spent the next week and a half with my family. We went to Lincoln Park Zoo, a movie, bowling and of course eating. Fran flew in on Thursday and we got ready for Simoen and Jerry’s wedding.

Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo

The wedding was fantastic. The bride and groom looked great. It was at a beautiful country club and we had a great time dancing with the family.

Jerry & Simoen
Jerry & Simoen

The day after the wedding we left Chicago and drove to Lexington Kentucky. We stopped at Town Branch distillery. We didn’t make it in time for a full tour, but we did get the tail end of the tour and the tasting. We are not big bourbon drinkers but we really loved the Bluegrass Sundown. This is the Kentucky version of Irish coffee. All you need to do is add hot water and float heavy cream on top. We bought a bottle, but it didn’t last very long. Fran was right. We should have bought more than one bottle.

Town Branch Distillery
Town Branch Distillery

The next day we went to the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg KY. This time we took the full tour. After the tasting we bought two bottles, the Yellow and Small Batch.

After that we went to the Wild Turkey distillery. This was a larger tour that included the distillery, barrel storage and bottling. We bought a bottle of American Honey Spice and Rare Breed.

Wild Turkey Distillery
Wild Turkey Distillery

Next we went to Woodford Reserve. We were too late for the tour, but we did a porch chat. We learned that bourbon is really good after a bite of dark chocolate. We bought a bottle of Woodford Reserve and a box of bourbon chocolates.

Woodford Reserve Distillery
Woodford Reserve Distillery

Then we drove to Bardstown. We tried to get into a bed and breakfast. One was Bourbon Manor Inn and the other was Jailer’s Inn, an old jail house. Neither had vacancy so we stayed in a hotel and walked around the town. We had dinner at the Bourbon Manor. We definitely need to come back to the bourbon trail and see more of the sights.

The next day we drove to Nashville, TN. We went to the Johnny Cash Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame and several honky tonks. We met up with Erika and Steve and went boot shopping and to dinner at the Urban Grub. We had a great time. The only problem is that we didn’t have enough time to see everything we wanted to see.

Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash Museum

 

Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium

 

Nashville Honky Tonk
Nashville Honky Tonk

Next we dove to Athens, TN to visit Jerry and Debbie. They were very gracious hosts and we had a wonderful time. They also gave us wine and preserves.

After that we drove to Catawba, NC (outside of Charlotte) to visit Alicia, Jackson, Oliver and Jeff. We had a great time, as always.

Then we drove to Durham, NC and  ate dinner at our friends restaurant, Thai Cafe. The food was excellent I wish we knew about this place when we lived there.

Next we went to Ernul, NC to visit James and work on Olson Manor, our storage unit (refer to Tips or Becoming a Liveaboard for more explanation). We managed to pack a bunch of stuff in the van, including a band saw, teak, lexan and a bunch of tools. Keep in mind that we already have stuff from the sailboat race (mine and Robert’s), clothes for Chicago, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, wine and preserves from Jerry and Debbie and beach stuff for the next week.

Then it’s time for our annual family beach week in Ocean Isle, NC. Fran and I started this tradition four years ago. Since we don’t have a house, and our boat is not big enough for everybody we decided to rent a beach house for a week when all our children and grandchildren were available.  This year we had Shannon, Daniel, Gracie, Lawton, Alicia, Jeff, Jackson, Oliver, Ryan, Audrey, Erika, Steve, Adam, Ava, Greg, Emmy, Fran and Ron. We had a wonderful time playing at the beach, as usual.

Grandma and Oliver
Grandma and Oliver
Jackson and Oliver
Jackson and Oliver
Ava, Lawton and Jackson
Ava, Lawton and Jackson

After a fantastic week at the beach it was time to go home. But first we had to drive Adam and Ava to the Raleigh airport. Remember all the stuff we packed into the van? Now we had to find room for two more people and their luggage. We managed to get them to the airport Saturday afternoon and then made it back to Marathon, FL on Sunday. We stopped Lorelei, one of our favorite restaurants on the way back. It’s nice to back in the keys. Fran was gone five and a half weeks and Ron was gone eight weeks. Are we done traveling for a while? Definitely NOT!
It took us a while to unpack the van. We reassembled the band saw and put it in our marina workshop. George and Nancy are off for a while so we go diving and lobstering on Just One More. We only get four lobsters in two days, but they sure were tasty.

On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend we go to Key West with George, Nancy, David and Brenda. The first Sunday of every month is local appreciation day and many of the attractions are free. Our fist stop is Peppers of Key West. We buy some hot sauce and marinade. Then we go to the Spice and Tea Exchange and buy some seasoning. Then we visit the Custom House, Art and History museum. What an interesting place. We eat lunch at Caroline’s and then tour the Harry S. Truman Little White House.  Then we take the Trolley tour and finish off the day with mojitos in Mallory Square. What a fun day!

Dancing
Dancing